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Say yes to life’s wild ride

Have you been contemplating doing something a little scary or exciting with your life?

Maybe you have been thinking about making a big shift in what you are doing or how you do it. Or perhaps you want try something new, like picking up a paint brush or a pen and creating something. Maybe there is something or someone you have been avoiding for a while and you are mustering the courage to have a conversation.

There is a lot of fear swirling around those of us living in the United States, and around everyone in this current world. Horrible, scary things are happening to people in the United States — from hurricanes to police violence. People around the world are fleeing their homes because of natural disasters and horrifying acts of terror. The fear is palpable. I can feel it every time someone begins a conversation about Hillary or Trump. (See? Didn’t your heart race a bit just reading their names?)

Fear is all around us. It can stop us in our tracks. It can pervade beyond where it makes sense—moving from a logical fear that protects us, to dwell in a haunted place inside our minds where it is no longer helpful.

Fear shuts us down from imagining new possibilities for ourselves and for others.

How can we answer this current, fear-inducing political and social landscape?

One way is to make the choice to say YES to the things in our own lives that we want to bring into being, even if they scare us a little.

This is my first blog post after seven months off. I did not intentionally take this time away from writing to you. It happened naturally when I made one of those gutsy life changes I am talking about. My husband Roberto and I decided to try and get pregnant and have a baby. And it worked! I am now very round and only three weeks from when this little one is due.

After I became pregnant, something unexpected happened. I grew very quiet and internal. I am not often a silent person. However, having a life growing inside me caused me to focus my energy differently. I was not totally aware of this shift until I realized I had slowed WAY down on my personal Facebook posts and had stopped writing blog posts. Part of my silence was because of this small, amazing miracle occurring and another side of my reticence to speak up was my own fear. Choosing to have a child is scary – you are committing to something much bigger than yourself, you are creating life when there is a lot that can harm the next generation, and you are guaranteed that you will not be a perfect parent. And this act of creation is already changing me in powerful ways.

There are choices we make that change us more than we realize.

After a few of these life experiences, we may begin to get weary of any change or new choice that affects our lives. Even if there are exciting opportunities ahead, we’re smart enough to know that transition is never easy and it never turns out how we planned. You can choose to try to stay on the same path and walk the line. But you know that usually doesn’t work either. Life will still send you some big game changers.

As I sit before one of my biggest life transitions yet, grateful, excited and—yes!—terrified, I encourage you to say YES to your next possibility, big or small. The growth that happens when we say YES to the wild ride of life is powerful. It is where the creation happens.

We need some creative, life affirming energy in this world right now. Let’s say YES.

Before you click on the next email or browser screen, take a moment. You’ve made it this far. Something is speaking to you. What do you want to embrace and say YES to? Or what do you want to stop doing?

Gather your courage. Gather your support system. And try it.

I am with you in this one. I am gathering my support systems and my courage and getting ready to bring a brand new, small human being into this world, in the midst of all of the fear and hate. It will change everything for me. This choice will also bring delight and possibility into my life and the lives of others.

Join me in saying YES to continuing to choose living in the face of fear.

 

 

You’ll be hearing a lot less from me for the next three to four months, while I’m learning to be a mom. I’ll be taking time away from my business, but before I take this break, I want to address how we can address the fear that pervades our current world.

When I return in a few months, I expect a few exciting changes in my business, and to continue to do awesome work with my clients. I promise to send you a picture or two via my email!

admin@annievonessenwebsite2015Say yes to life’s wild ride
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Loosen your grip

Last month, I wrote that the things and people we love can cause us both joy and stress. I wrote that both connecting and disconnecting—engaging and disengaging—are healthy responses. Here is a simple practice that will help you reduce stress and increase joy.

Think about an area of stress in your life. It could be your work, a specific project, volunteer activities, a relationship, your kids. Remember, the people and activities we love can still bring us stress.

Look deeply: What is something within that area of stress that you enjoy? What are you grateful for?

Practice being mindful when you are involved in that area of stress. Consciously deepen your connection to the thing you enjoy.

For example, one of the areas of joy in my work is small client meetings and groups. I love this work! When I have the opportunity to be in a client meeting, I can stop and think to myself, “This is wonderful. I am so grateful for this moment.” I connect with that part of my work.

Now think again of that same area that causes stress in your life.

What is something within that activity, project, or relationship that you could disconnect from? What could you delegate, take less seriously, or worry about less?

In areas of our life that are very important we can become very attached to every single thing that is occurring, how it is happening, and the possible outcome. This increases the amount of stress we experience.

You can let go! Loosen your grip and release that vision of the “perfect” result, the “right way” of accomplishing your goal. Say goodbye to a few less important tasks.

For instance, my home is not as clean as I would love it to be, especially when we have guests. But I can’t be totally attached to this part of my home life. Other things are more important to me, and I love having guests, so I say to myself, “A quick, imperfect clean-up is better than not having guests at all.”

This week think of something you want to deepen your connection to, and something you want to actively disconnect from. I promise that doing both will reduce your stress.

Pam LangordLoosen your grip
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2 questions that cut back the stress

I have missed you!

I didn’t write a blog post last month because I was just beginning my first online class, ever!  In February, I launched a 7-week online version of my Room Next Door workshop and really wanted to give my full attention and support to the folks in my class.

My Room Next Door workshops and classes are all about what we can do to reduce stress in our lives and increase joy. Needless to say, I have been thinking about this a lot in the last few months!

Growing my business is a super exciting and joyful endeavor. I would not want to be doing anything else. But even though I love the work I do, launching new websites and new programs is not without its stress.

Many of the things that cause us stress also bring us joy. And if something is stressing us out, the solution is not always as simple as saying, “Just stop doing that thing. Do less of it.” Our jobs, our beloved volunteer projects, and our families can all bring us a lot of stress — but we cannot just quit all of them!

So how do you reduce the stress you feel in the midst of your full, busy life?
Here are two questions you can use.

Ask yourself, “What am I connecting to? What am I disconnecting from?”

What do I mean by connect and disconnect?

We are making connections all the time. We choose to engage with ideas and people. There are activities and projects we choose to experience and enjoy. You can think of the connections as moments where you have your hand open, palm up. Or perhaps you are high-fiving. You are energetically saying, “Yes, please!”

You are allowing the person, idea, or moment to connect with some part of you.

 

At the same time, there are things and people we are disconnecting from: experiences, feelings and thoughts we are not engaging with. Think of the disconnection as moments when your hand is positioned in a gesture that says, “Not right now.” You are mentally and emotionally unplugging.

Disengaging mindfully and from a place of love can be a powerful way to care for yourself. In fact, sometimes it’s the only way you can move forward and get the work done.

 

Next time: How to engage or disengage mindfully and with love.

admin@annievonessenwebsite20152 questions that cut back the stress
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Back in the thick of it.

Are you back in the thick of things?

This can be a hard time of year because we want to feel that fresh start. Yet here we are, still pushing through the same work and juggling all the same pieces of daily life.

It can also be a refreshing time of year. Some people can harness the new year’s energy and then launch into both new and old work with a renewed sense of passion.

If you are working on a project that feels like it just keeps going with no end in sight, then this note is for you. If you are feeling super excited about the year ahead, then consider this note an extra boost!

When you are pushing through work that never seems to end, here are a few things to remember. You have heard these things before. Many wise teachers and dear friends have said these words. But for you, now in the midst of January, I am going to say them again.

Look back at what you have accomplished

You have done many things in your life that are awesome and powerful.  You have already done things in your work that are HUGE accomplishments. I know you have. Right now remind yourself of the great things you have done. (I won’t judge if you brag a little.)

Trust yourself

Yes! You actually have the ability to keep going. You have the ability to do this work. You have everything within you that you need. That includes the ability to ask for help and innovate with other folks who would be great work with. You can do this.

Find ways to sustain yourself for the journey

If you are going on a very long road trip, it is a good idea to pack snacks and food. It is also a good idea to pull over and eat that food, get out of the car and look around, move your body a bit, get some sleep, and even ask someone else to drive for a while.  Think of your big project like a road trip. Eat, sleep, listen to good music, see the sights, have fabulous conversations – get out of the car sometimes! You will still get where you’re going. And you will enjoy the journey a lot more!

Nothing is forever

“This, too, will pass,” said Persian Sufi poets and lots of other wise people. And it’s true. Everything ends and begins again anew. This current project will be over, this challenging job will end, the kids will grow older. Hold this knowledge, at least just for a second. This moment right now is the moment you have to make the most of. A few moments and blinks later, things will be different.

You’ve got this! Keep going. Look back and congratulate yourself on what you have done. And don’t forget to take a few breaks along the way.

You can even tell me! Feel free to write me a note or post a comment below.

 

Do you want to commit to finding ways to have a calmer, more connected 2016?

My Room Next Door class begins on February 14th. Choose now to be less stressed next year. Get more info and purchase your seat here.

admin@annievonessenwebsite2015Back in the thick of it.
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What is sweet in your life right now?

There are a lot of expectations at this time of year. Expectations we place on ourselves, expectations of our loved ones, end of the year expectations of our co-workers. If you are religious, then this time of year can also bring expectations for your spiritual life. Some of these people and their expectations want the best for you: to have a merry time, to feel loved and connected, to experience delight. However, expectations can feel heavy.

For me this year, the expectation to participate in the holiday season and year-end rituals is commingled with the heaviness of my heart.

My heart feels heavy because of all the hate, lack of understanding, and murders that so many communities in our world are facing right now. And I do not want to ignore the complexity of the expectations for the holiday season and the sadness about what is happening to people in my country and in countries far away. So I am not going to. I am going to hold both.

This year as I shop or decorate the house, I am also feeling a mix of delight and sadness.

I am choosing carefully where to invest my time and energy. I am putting my energy into this time of thanksgiving. I am focusing on the upcoming holidays, which are most dear because that’s when I gather with my family. I am lucky to have them.

I work hard to not shut down my heart with the constant barrage of news focused on hate and suffering. I have one technique I am using this year to keep my heart open and remember the essence of this season. At least once a day I take time to remember what is sweet in my life, what I have given to others, and what gifts I have received.

You can do this every day, perhaps right before closing your eyes or as you take the first sip of coffee in the morning.

Close your eyes and ask:

What is sweet in my life right now?
What have I given to someone in my life?
What have I received from someone in my life?

As you answer each question, say thank you. This ritual does not have to be a big thing.

Here are my answers for right now:

What is sweet in my life?
Our home is warm and clean, with a sweet cat and caring neighbors.

What have I given to someone in my life?
I offer a careful listening ear and steadfast commitment to my partner.

What have I received from someone?
My dear friend trekked across the mountains in the snow, bringing her 10-month-old for a visit.

What is a sweetness in your life right now? Post in the comments or on Facebook.

 

Do you want to commit to finding ways to have a calmer, more connected 2016?

My Room Next Door class begins on February 14th. Choose now to be less stressed next year. Get more info and purchase your seat here.

admin@annievonessenwebsite2015What is sweet in your life right now?
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A bigger reason for living

Do you believe you are living for something larger than yourself? I believe most of us are living for a purpose greater than ourselves. You may not have gotten explicit about the big purpose behind what you do every day, but I imagine that you could name many reasons — reasons that are beyond your own needs.

  • Are you making choices so your children learn how to grow up as loving humans? Perhaps you’re making hard choices so your children can have opportunities and new experiences you did not.
  • Are you working on a project that will make our communities better places to live, or our schools better places to learn? Are you working for a world where people will have more access to resources, care, and love?
  • Are you trying to act in a way that causes the people around you to experience a little joy and kindness during their day?

I believe we were put on this spinning planet for a short time in order to give something of ourselves. That “something” does not have to be grand or heroic. If we are all thoughtfully trying and giving in our own sphere of influence, it will matter. The effect will ripple.

Take a moment to get clear. Take a breath. Then ask yourself, “Right now, what bigger reason am I living for?”

Now write down your bigger reason for living.

Think of one way recently you have done your best to live into that bigger purpose. It could be a grant you wrote. A project you are working on with a team. A conversation with your child, your parent, your best friend.

The way you treat someone on the bus today, how you move around people on the sidewalk, how you talk to someone serving you coffee… every action is an opportunity to make a small connection with another human being. A connection that lets the other person know you care, even just a little. And that is living with a bigger reason than yourself.

In the midst of all the violence, occurring in our world and in our backyard, we need this – to connect to our larger purpose.

And here is one more thing: When you see someone trying their best to live out their purpose, see them and say something. You could say, “I see you being an awesome parent, friend, partner.” Or, “I see you working hard for our community.” Say thank you. There are a lot of us trying out here. Let’s remember to keep trying and keep saying thanks.

Here are a few examples of ordinary people, like you and me, living out their bigger purpose – here and here.

This world is rough. It is full of injustice and suffering. In the midst of all the brutal news, we tend to forget our bigger purposes. As we recognize all the ways we fall short as humans, we forget that most of us are working to improve this world.

Remembering our bigger purpose and acknowledging others will allow us to keep expanding our hearts.

How are you living out your bigger purpose? How do you see others living out their bigger purpose?

Post your thoughts in the comments below.
Join the conversation on Facebook.

Do you want to commit to finding ways to have a calmer, more connected 2016?

My Room Next Door class begins on February 14th. Choose now to be less stressed next year. Get more info and purchase your seat here.

admin@annievonessenwebsite2015A bigger reason for living
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Maybe it’s time to start something new

I know I often write about de-stressing by taking things off your plate, but maybe it’s time to try something new.

Whoa! If your schedule is packed and you do not know how to fit in one more thing — or you don’t even feel like thinking about new things — this may seem like a very unhelpful suggestion.

Hear me out.

I imagine there is something you’re wanting to try. Something new that you’ve been thinking about, but haven’t shared with anyone. Maybe this new thing does not even require extra time in your schedule.

Trying new things is how we spark and light up. It is how we learn and grow.

New things can make us smile and giggle. New things can make us almost brim over with fear, and then experience the glorious release of saying, “Well, screw it!” and jumping in with both feet.

It’s like trying a bite of an unfamiliar new dessert at the bakery. It can be a sugary surprise and it is almost always worth it.

I am trying something new right now. For the last few months, I have been going to the gym and joining 10 other women of various shapes and sizes in weight lifting and interval training. This is way outside my comfort zone. My notion of myself has never been strong or athletic. Instead, I have seen myself as klutzy and goofy. I am more likely to be found bumping into the corner of a table than I am lifting a weight. Now I put on tight blue pants and running shoes and join the circle of women to receive our marching orders in a smelly gym.

You know that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach? That’s how I felt as I parked my car in front of the gym for the first two months.

Then WHY in the world am I going?

Here is the reason: I have always wanted to feel a little less clumsy and a little bit stronger. And because something in me was resisting the idea SO fiercely, I knew something in me really wanted to try.

So in a practical sense, this is my new thing right now: This amazing class that is teaching me how to do a burpee. Every time I go, I dread it a little bit less. And I am getting stronger.

But do you want to know what the new thing in my life really is?

It is THINKING about myself differently. I am now trying on this idea that I am a strong woman. A woman who is totally capable of lifting weights and doing wall sits. This is the biggest shift. I have to give myself a talking to almost every class. It goes something like this: “Annie, you are totally capable of doing this. You are doing this! You are strong and you are getting stronger. Get it!”

So I turn back your direction.

What is the new thing you’ve been wanting to try? Is there something you are already doing that is new and scary and out of your comfort zone?

It could be an addition to your life – a new skill or hobby. Or it could just be a new way of thinking about yourself. I bet there is something, if you look closely.

Acknowledge this new thing you are trying on. Maybe you can begin to see yourself in a new light. You can say, “Hey, I am strong. I am capable. I am learning this new skill. I am becoming this kind of person.”

Look yourself squarely in the face. (Really do this. You could even go to a mirror.) And acknowledge the new thing you are trying on – the new person you are becoming.

And if you even want to tell someone about it, do it! Tell someone you love about this new thing that you are living into.

You can even tell me! Feel free to write me a note or post a comment below.

Do you want to commit to finding ways to have a calmer, more connected 2016?

My Room Next Door class begins on February 14th. Choose now to be less stressed next year. Get more info and purchase your seat here.

admin@annievonessenwebsite2015Maybe it’s time to start something new
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Is the time you spend, well spent?

Sweaters are on and little kids are leaving our building to walk up the hill to school. Last week, my husband Roberto packed up the car and left for his school up north. We have resumed our routine of weekdays apart and weekends together. So far, this year is easier than last, because as with most change, it is easier when you know what to expect.

Last month, I wrote to you about my full plate and the need to decide what to set down and what to pick up. I have been reflecting on this idea and talking to people about it, including a few conversations that came out of my last email letter.

When you are busy – don’t you find it is a bit more complicated than just re-evaluating your life and your time and saying no to a few things in order to make room for more? The advice we all get is to learn to just say no. It has been the advice I have followed and given plenty of times. I tell myself every time I overschedule and I tell my stretched thin clients – “Just take something off your plate.”

Is it really that easy? I don’t think it is. Yes, I should say no to a few more things. But there is a bigger question that wants to be asked, “Why does it seem like my packed calendar does not match what I want from my life or I thought I wanted from this season of my life?”

Before you say “yes” or say “no”, you need to know why. What do you value? What do you want from your life and your time?

Have you ever had a moment where you are not sure if your time matches your priorities, values or dreams? Maybe it is happening right now.

When reflecting on this for myself I came up with a different answer than I expected.

As this busy summer ended I felt like my time had been packed to the gills and I had an uneasy feeling that I was missing something. I had spent my time doing more work with clients than ever before. And more time with my husband and immediate family.

I checked in with myself and asked “Is how I am using my time matching with my priorities and values?”

The knee-jerk reflection was NO! I “should” have had more time this summer swimming in lakes. I missed seeing friends!

Then I reflected further and realized that something else had shifted. Normally, being outside and with friends is what is important to me during the summer. I love my friends! Yet I was delivered two amazing gifts this summer – my business is growing and my husband, who usually does not live in the same town as me, was home all summer. My priorities have changed for the time being. I put my husband, close family and business first. My calendar reflects a change in priorities.

My mind did not catch up and felt like something was left behind. And it was. When your priorities shift, even momentarily, you do have to say good bye to other things. You have to make hard choices.

Maybe this is true for you too. Maybe something in your life has shifted. External circumstances beyond your control can completely change what you need to focus your time on. It can take a while for our brain to catch up with the change.

When you feel like what you spend your time doing is not in line your priorities and values you may begin to feel sick – physically or emotionally. Your body knows when you aren’t living in a way that is true to your core needs or when you have not acknowledged a shift that is happening or needs to happen in your life.

Perhaps, right now you are feeling great about what you do with your days. For the most part, what you spend your time doing matches what you care about and what you want to move forward in your life.  If this is the case in your life right now, reflect on that and then CELEBRATE the HECK out of it!

However if, like me, you find that your time is not being spent in a way that matches your values and priorities. The first trick is to notice this. Maybe your priorities have changed. Maybe your time has been overtaken by outside forces.

Here are a few reflection questions to help you figure out if your calendar does not match with your priorities or values and WHY:
  • Has something in your external world changed?
  • Has this change brought about a change in your priorities or how you need to spend your time?
  • Have you changed?
  • What are you craving from your life now? In the future?
  • What are the most important things to you right now? The people? The things you want to support?
  • Does your calendar reflect your priorities, hopes and values?
  • AND does your calendar have breathing room for you?

It can be hard to look at how we spend our time against what we care about and what our goals are. If we look closely it could mean a major life shift is happening or needs to happen. It could also mean we will need to change behaviors.  The tricky thing is if you do not take a look at your priorities and your time, that disconnect can lead to continuous stress and even worse, illness.

If your calendar does not reflect your priorities and values, what are the small changes you can make?

What might be the bigger changes you could examine?

Be gentle and take a look. See if your priorities and time align. What has to shift?

Annie Von EssenIs the time you spend, well spent?
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Summer time is fun time — right?

This sunny Northwest summer is bringing with it a joyful and frenetic energy, and the last few months have been full!

My husband returned to Seattle after his first year of graduate school in a different city. I’ve been working with clients who are in the midst of major organizational changes. I’ve spent lots of time having fun with loved ones. The events in our nation continue to deliver reminders that the bright sunshine does not slow down hateful acts of violence.

Three forces are pulling me in opposite directions. The extra vitamin D induced energy has me wanting to get big things done and move my work forward. The sweet sunny days with my husband close by have me wanting to lie on a blanket by the water’s edge and read a book. And the local and global news reminds me daily that all things are not equal in this world. I’m aware that my safe, warm sun is not everyone’s experience and that if I want the world to be a kinder place I need to pay attention, learn more, and work for change.

How do you contend with different desires during the same season?

Enjoy where you are in each moment.

I have found myself watching little kids splashing in the waves at the beach, and suddenly thinking:  What should we do at that next planning meeting? I have jumped up to write a weekend packing list when I am right in the middle of writing content for my new website.

When I catch myself I say: Whoa, Annie! Where are you right this moment? I breathe deeply, and remind myself: Oh, yes! I have my toes in the sand and there is a sweet three-year-old tossing pebbles with a splash. No need to plan that meeting agenda until Monday.

When you discover that you’ve interrupted one moment with thoughts about your to-dos, take a breath. Remind yourself that this moment matters. You have time.

 

Big change and big projects do not happen on an exact timeline.

I am great at attaching arbitrary meanings to time, and then deciding that things must be done during that time — or else! I have built quite the robust set of summer projects. And guess what? Not all of them are going to get done this summer! I have already had to reconstruct my plan — more than once.

Yes we need timelines or things can drag on forever. However, overloading yourself with too many plans or unrealistic expectations causes a lot of additional stress. Remember that linear time is a helpful yet arbitrary parameter. It’s OK to reschedule some of your plans and even take a few big projects off your list.

 

Build time for the most important things.

It’s good to view time as flexible, but we all need schedules. I’ve learned that if I don’t build in specific time for the things that are critical, those things will not get done. My calendar is one of my most important tools!

Put the most important work, projects, and life events on your calendar and attend to them when your calendar tells you to. This applies to exercise, writing time, having dinner with family or friends, or a meeting at work. Setting time on your calendar for important events keeps projects moving forward and makes space for the things you need most. When you build everything in to your calendar it will also help you see visually if you are over doing it. (If you are cut something out.) And yes both of these things are true for me – my calendar helps me get things done AND things need to be flexible.

 

What about the sad, anger inducing things happening to our communities, here at home and far away?

Hold on to complexity.

I am allowing myself to have complex feelings. I can feel bliss and sadness on the same day. I do not need to run from the bliss because there is so much to be sad about. And I do not need to ignore the sadness because I am afraid it will take away the good feelings. I need both feelings. I can feel both.

 

Face the news. Keep trying.

When I feel guilty because of the opportunities, rights, and privileges I have, I remind myself that I can do something. To deny myself any joy because of all the harm in the world does no one any good. We need more joy. We need people to feel it and shine it out. At the same time, the guilt and sadness I feel is a reminder to not ignore my desire for the world to be a more equal place.

I remind myself that I am responsible for making that change happen. We all are. For me, taking responsibility means not shutting off the news, not turning away from the difficult conversations. It means examining the work I am doing and how it impacts others in good and negative ways and making changes in how I work.
These are a few of my thoughts on dealing with different wants and desires during this summer season.

How do you contend with different desires in the same season?

Post your thoughts in my comments below.

Annie Von EssenSummer time is fun time — right?
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Joy in your work day

Last week I wrote about enjoying your job, even when you’re working super hard. I talked about finding things you like about your work… Things that are fun… Things you do that you have always wanted to do and now you can!

Finding those things and taking time to enjoy them is important. Here is another technique for enjoying your work.

Build some joy into your’ work day.

Your moments of joy do not have to be related to the actual work at hand. Instead, this technique is all about figuring out how to fold a few things you really enjoy into your work day… and then have fun doing those things!

Here are a few examples:

Go for a walk in the middle of the day. Just 10 or 15 minutes — or longer if it’s possible. And enjoy it! You can walk alone or with co-workers. Either way can be fun, depending on the kind of day you are having.

Bring a lunch that you are really excited about eating. Really! Enjoy it.

Bring food to share with your co-workers. This could be cookies or fruit, or anything you enjoy. Share. Experience other people’s joy at having a treat at work. Enjoy their enjoyment!

Pay someone a compliment. Send a card or tell them in person. Say thank you! Then enjoy the moment when they feel joy.

Bring gorgeous summer flowers into your office. Look at them often. Enjoy their colors and intricate details.

Take a moment to ask yourself how you can bring joy and fun into your office space and your work.

Take it a step further: How can you bring this same intention for fun and enjoyment into your home?

Annie Von EssenJoy in your work day
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